Dancing on Ashes (Fascinus)

Had Skullface googled Alicja’s name
She would have put things together much sooner
But would that have changed anything?
Because of the tattoo on her face
Skullface is used to provoking strong reactions in people
Rejection or fascination, both actualizing in quite different ways
Over time, she built a complex combination of indifference –
Carefully dosed to not become cold, blasé or distant –
Vigilance – danger is never very far when you’re different –
And a slight taste of vanity that she prefers to acknowledge
Better than to be in denial
She has spotted Alicja for a while
The tall woman is around a little bit too much
As if she suddenly became the friend of all her friends
While obviously avoiding to get in direct contact with her
Skullface knows it will happen, but cannot figure out yet
What form it will take
She is not upset nor obsessed, just aware
It’s not the first time this happens
Then at some point Alicja is a good friend of Devyani
They share a taste for gossip, dirty talk and salacious innuendos
They hang together in straight bars and play flamboyant femmes
Devyani adopts Alicja’s trait of smoking cigars in an affected way
And her deep loose décolletés allowing occasional nipple slips
(Though with just slightly bigger breasts, Devyani lacks the chic of it)
Now when Alicja walks by the atelier – a few times a week! –
She casually waves hello through the window
But her face loses its mobility, like she tries to control herself
Skullface is used to Devyani’s posse of vivid lesbians
More the partying kind than LGTB rights militants
She likes most of them but doesn’t join often
After all, when she has a boyfriend
She doesn’t hang with people for the sake of their heterosexuality
So Alicja’s flirtatious ways with Devyani are quite familiar
Even if she’s a little overage for Girl Power plays
Then comes the opening of a craft arts exhibition
Where Skullface shows a few things she makes
In addition to her successful silver jewels line
On her spare time she fashions these ambiguous objects
Between evocative sculptures and one-off designer sex toys
Made of exotic woods and polished aluminium
She claims it’s not art, not sex toys either
They are not for use, though fully functional
And they are not for sale (but she keeps them
In a little display in her atelier, for occasional amateurs)
Alicja is there with Devyani and Boris and a few other friends
She wears a light grey pantsuit over a wide-open white blouse
A big chiseled bronze medallion rests between her breasts
And she has the gaze of a panther
She browses sneeringly through everything else in the show
Blowing the smoke of her thin cigarillo to the ceiling
Whispering comments to her friends who burst into laughter
Her trajectory is obviously calculated to reach Skullface’s window
After thirty minutes of display of her social skills
Skullface waits for her, chatting with a friend of her mother
Who comes to see everything she shows, buys her jewels
And even shows up regularly at the Cabaret
She usually feels a little bit embarrassed to talk about sexual topics
With elders, or anybody related to her family
But she likes the intensity of this woman
Who was an early member of the Commune
And an ardent advocate of its free sexuality rules
Of course Alicja cunningly manages to join the conversation
And almost without noticing
In spite of her awareness that it would happen
Skullface has her first conversation with her
Well not exactly a conversation actually
Alicja has a special way to inconspicuously control discussions
And have her interlocutor voice either a variation or her own opinion
Or a point that would allow her a brilliant contradiction
Her words are like chiseling blades reorganizing mental matter
And each of them comes with sharp hands and head movements
She shapes meanings with wide-open hands and tense fingers
Until they turn into objects that one could see and feel
But Skullface is somehow disappointed
In a way, she enjoyed Alicja’s slow and convoluted approach
She took it as a one of these gratuitous seduction games
She would never initiate herself but enjoys being the object of
And suddenly Alicja is all over and takes all the room
Skullface feels like she’s just another pretext
For the woman’s endless self-indulgence and inflated ego
Even though Alicja emphatically praises her sexual artifacts
Calling them ‘sacred objects devoted to a love cult
Ultimate intermediates between organic and inorganic
Timeless epitomes of human craftsmanship
And even ‘cosmic communion prosthesis
(But Skullface is not sure, she lost track at some point)
A circle of marveled listeners formed around them
Shaking heads and grinning in approval
As if Skullface should be proud and delighted to be the object
Of such brilliant understanding and appreciation
When she actually feels dispossessed and almost fooled
Sensing that beyond enthusiasm and flattery lays a hidden agenda
Then Alicja lets other people talk – mostly commenting on her words
She goes to the display and looks again carefully
At the shining curves of the stylized organic shapes
Thoughtfully tapping with a fingernail on the window
Seemingly struck by an unexpected aspect of Skullface’s work
She talks now to Devyani
But her voice is clearly understandable over the other conversations
As if carried on overhead by the smoke of her cigarillo
'You know, however beautiful these are, they lack something
Actually, they lack dangerousness
They can for sure fulfill aesthetic and physical high pleasures’
(As Alicja leans over the window, her blouse opens wider
And one can see the reflection of nipple piercing shields)
‘But for those who expect more from being alive
Willing to embrace life totally and reach the ultimate thrill
Hazard is what brings you to the heroic dimension
Out of which living is not really living
The one who could make such an object
Equally pleasurable and dangerous would be a great creator!’
By the time Alicja finishes her speech
Skullface managed to be in the courtyard
Smoking her cigarette-of-the-month and chatting with Boris
And clearly visible through the window – her back at least
After that episode, Devyani is away for a few weeks
Touring Western Europe with the Cabaret show
In charge of make-up, hairdressing, wardrobe and high spirits
Alicja manages to not have completely disappeared
She goes to a gym in the neighborhood or something
She sits at a café terrace near by with a pile of books and her laptop
Once she’s at the local flea market on Sundays
With an old lady that might well be her mother
(What seems to be a heroic demonstration of normality)
She waves casually, like she’s too busy to stop by but will soon
Then one day she materializes in Skullface’s workshop
Kisses her hello Belgian style as if it’s understood
And skipping the usual social talk, says straightforwardly:
‘I need you to help me with something’
‘Here we are’ Skullface thinks
‘You know my work at the Brandenburger Schlossmuseum
It’s not very sexy but still so inspiring for me
I’ve been busy for years with recreating ancient rites
And I’m tired of waiting until I find an institutional frame
To make an important project of mine happen’
She reaches to her designer bag and digs out a grey Muji notebook
Opens it to show a roughly scribbled sketch
‘I need to visualize an idea I have, and I can’t do it on my own
I need someone to make a model of an archeological excavation
Showing the extraction of an antique bigger than life bull statue’
Now Skullface is dumbfounded, she expected something dodgy
Some twisted scheme fitting to this bizarre woman
She often attracts morbid people tripping on her tattoo
Trying to involve her in some lame and macabre games
But Alicja seems too self-centered to credit her as special
And just needs her handicraft skills
That feels good, she has no reasons not to do it
A few hours work, reasonable money, quite an unusual project
Alicja talks about blank spots in European mythology
Three horned bulls Gaulish statuettes
Hermaphrodite white bulls dedicated to the moon
Zeus turning into a bull to ravish Europa across the sea
Only a couple of weeks later Devyani will tell Skullface
About Alicja’s personal understanding and practice of hierogamy
Her fantasy about having a sacred bull statue
Ridden by young lascivious bacchantes in full moon
Also how Alicja is absolutely dedicated to have
Her fantasies actualize, and how this attracts people to her
But by that time Skullface and Alicja were already tied.